Courier-Gazette Editorial

Develop the Thomaston Green

Oct 08, 2020

We were stunned to see the town of Thomaston vote down two good proposals for developing the former prison land on Route 1 known as the Thomaston Green.

Failing by slim margins Sept. 15 were proposals from Avesta Housing for a senior living facility and Coastal Opportunities for a new group home. The Avesta project would have increased the town’s tax base.

We recently heard from neighbors opposed to the project trotting out the usual arguments that the process should have been different, that this would hurt their property values and that people are using this green space for walking and recreation. This also fits into a larger trend we see throughout the Midcoast.

Whether you are building a library or hotel in Rockport or a strip of sidewalk in Union, neighbors will fight bitterly to stop any proposed development.

Parks are nice, but this is Maine, and we do not lack scenic places to walk and enjoy the outdoors. Many are in places where you will not have to hear semis roaring past along Route 1. This particular gateway to the town was the location of a quarry and state prison for many years, and the plan when the prison was torn down was always to develop it.

The town has invested in design guidelines and infrastructure to eventually have a mix of housing, retail and green public space.

That development has been stalled for years. The economy crashing in 2008 did not help. Now we find ourselves in the pandemic of 2020, which among other things has changed the way town meeting items such as this one are voted on in the community. We would think with more people turning out to vote via secret ballot, a better decision would have been made.

The citizens voted to accept the land from the state originally with the understanding it would be developed. They voted to spend money to get it ready for electricity, sewer and so on. The mandate is to develop it. When surveyed, they listed rising property taxes as their top concern. There is a mandate to move forward with development for this property.

As for property values, while the land is undeveloped, uncertainty about the future of the Green will hang over sales of neighboring parcels. However, the right balance of housing, green and town-friendly businesses will provide a stronger tax base for the town, while creating a sense of stability for the neighborhood.

Thomaston leaders need to get their message out to the people about what this property could be and what it will be eventually. They need to hold meetings and put out statements clearing up any misinformation or misconceptions that have developed around this.

The plans for development or new better plans for future products need to be explained, promoted and put back before the voters.

Let’s switch gears and once again start moving forward.

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